Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons
Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons
Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons
Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons
Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons
Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons

Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons

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Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Lyons
 
Blue Ridge Tunnel A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia By Mary E. Lyons
Softbound 191 pages
Copyright 2014

Contents
Preface7
Part I: A Narrative History of the Blue Ridge Tunnel
Prologue11
1: 1845-4913
2: 185023
3: 1851-5337
4: 185451
5: 1855-5661
6: 1857-5971
7: 1860-7379
Part IL The Laborers
8: The Quinn Cemetery89
9: Cholera103
10: Symbols and Signs117
11: Irish Families127
Epilogue141
Appendix I143
Appendix II145
Appendix III169


Preface
Newspapers in the 1850s invariably referred to the Blue Ridge Tunnel by that name. Burial records kept during the 1850s at Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia, contain the same phrase. Most important, Irish immigrants writing to or from the Virginia Blue Ridge Railroad while searching for lost relatives referred to the Blue Ridge Tunnel in newspaper advertisements. For historical accuracy, then, I use the original name rather than the more recent names of Crozet Tunnel or Afton Tunnel.
I also designate 1860 as the completion year for the Blue Ridge Tunnel. True, the first train steamed through the passage in 1858, but work was incomplete. Irish laborers continued to blast away rock in 1859, and one died in a tunnel explosion that same year. The last known person who worked on the Blue Ridge Tunnel's construction was Irishman Tim Callaghan, as reported in the 1860 Nelson County, Virginia census.
I know of no extant photographs of the tunnel construction or the workers. I have included examples of similar scenes so that readers can understand the difficulty of life at the tunnel and along the tracks. These are representational images, not actual photographs of the Blue Ridge Tunnel or the laborers.
Dean Merrin in America Transformed. Engineering and Technology in the Nineteenth Century; Selections from the Historic American Engineering Record states that the Blue Ridge Tunnel was the longest railroad tunnel in the world upon completion. However, William Lowell Putnam writes in Great Railroad Tunnels of North America that the first bore of the Woodhead Tunnel, completed in England in 1845, was almost three miles long.
The summit of the mountain at Rockfish Gap is 2,418 feet above sea level. The Woodhead summit in the United Kingdom, where a mountain is defined as 2,000 feet or more above sea level, is 966 feet. I have concluded, then, that the Blue Ridge Tunnel was the longest mountain railroad tunnel in the world upon completion.

Prologue
Ticks. Mosquitoes. Chiggers. Snakes. It's a sticky hot day in 1976. Two
men are battling the beasts of summer as they hike along a grassy trail. This is no ordinary path through the forest. It's an old railroad track bed, built between 1850 and 1860 at Rockfish Gap, Virginia. Made of blasted rock, the track bed is 135 feet high and 700 feet long.
Minutes later, the men round a bend. They come upon an eye-popping sight: the east portal of the Virginia Blue Ridge Tunnel. The opening looks like the gaping jaws of a sleeping giant. Its mouth is smeared with more than one century of locomotive soot. Water from mountain springs drools down both sides. Vertical drill holes in the rocky approach to the portal are long and smooth, like teeth.
The visitors to the tunnel on this sweltering day are members of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The society has recently decided that the Virginia Blue Ridge Tunnel was one of the "greatest engineering marvels of the nineteenth century." It has declared it a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Other winners of this prestigious award are the Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Panama Canal and Eiffel Tower. The society plans to erect a bronze plaque in honor of the historic tunnel. That's

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